Friday, August 15, 2014

Review: Wild Orchid by Cameron Dokey

Wild Orchid by Cameron Dokey
Series: Once Upon A Time Fairytales #14
Published by Simon & Schuster
Pages: 199
Genre: Fairytale Retelling (YA)
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Mulan is unlike any other girl in China. When the emperor summons a great army, each family must send a male to fight. Tomboyish Mulan is determined to spare her aging father and bring her family honor, so she disguises herself and answers the call.

"How can one so young, a stranger I've just met, see so clearly the conflicts of my heart?"

I'm trying to work up some real feelings for this book but I'm having a difficult time of it. To me, it was neither great nor horrible.

I like Mulan. She's a good character and I've always like the girls that dress as boys so they can fight. Especially, like this book is, if the setting is one where the girls are not allowed to fight. Of course, that goes with the Mulan story (at least, the little of it that I actually know).

I was surprised when the love interest, Prince Jian, wasn't introduced until over halfway through the (very short) book - but, in an odd way, it worked really well. You see, Mulan was already pretty secure in herself when she met Jian. She wasn't trying to understand who she was while coming to terms with a guy turning her world upside down.

It also gave her a nice, likable family - which is something that is usually lacking in fairytale retellings. Not Mulan's though. She really was shaped by her upbringing and those around her, so it was kind of nice to keep the romance completely out of the picture until everyone (the readers and herself) understood who Mulan was.

However, the danger of waiting so long to introduce the love interest is in the fact that, unless he makes a very good first impression, he would be easily forgettable. I am pleased at how Jian totally avoided that. The first impression he made was entirely favorable and gave him one of those personality traits that I adore in rulers - a man of the people. Jian isn't the sort to lord his status over anyone, and I took an immediate liking to him for that. The romance, on the other hand, did suffer terribly and it felt like as soon as Jian discovered Mulan was a girl, he was in love with her. It's really a shame, because these two characters could have carried a three hundred page romance easily.

Really, I enjoyed the book - but (typical complaint) it was too short. To keep those first hundred pages all about Mulan and her character and personality, the book really needed to be four hundred pages long. As it was, the romance was greatly abbreviated - too short, in fact, to really feel a connection between two honestly likable people - and the fighting - after all, she did go to war - was almost non existent which was a huge disappointment to me.